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Unprecedented California fire warnings. TRANSCRIPT: 10/29/19, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams.

Guests: Elisabeth Bumiller, Ron Klain, Clint Watts, Bill Kristol

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Julian Epstein, we`re going to you`re your expertise on this as this process moves on.  Thank you for joining us.  E.J. Dionne, thank you for joining us.  That is tonight`s LAST WORD.  "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST:  An active duty U.S. army officer in dress uniform displaying the decorations he earned overseas and in 20 years of service to our country.

Showing up to tell Congress what he saw, what he heard the President say in that now-critical phone call to the President of Ukraine.  And even before he can appear, he`s the victim of a smear campaign on the right, questioning his loyalty, even as a Purple Heart recipient.  It was too much even for some Republicans to bear today, and they said so.  Just as the Democrats laid out the road map that may result in articles of impeachment.

Tonight we`ll tally up the extent of the change within the GOP and we`ll ask how Putin is likely viewing all of this.

And far from politics tonight, the concern is life or death in California, where a historic warning has been issued because of what`s about to begin tonight.  As THE 11TH HOUR gets underway on this Tuesday evening.

Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York, day 1,013 of the Trump administration.  And the breaking news we`re covering at the top of the broadcast here tonight is an indication that today`s testimony by an active-duty army officer might have been more damaging to the President than we first knew or thought.  His testimony wrapped up tonight after 10 hours.

"The New York Times" has new reporting on today`s testimony from Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, an army officer whose works is detailed inside the White House and overheard the President`s phone call to Ukraine.  The "Times" writes, that he "told House impeachment investigators on Tuesday that the White House transcript of a July call between President Trump and Ukraine`s President omitted crucial words and phrases, and that his attempts to restore them failed.  The omissions included Mr. Trump`s assertion that there were recordings of former Vice President Biden discussing Ukraine corruption, and an explicit mention by Ukraine`s President of Burisma Holdings, the energy company whose board employed Mr. Biden`s son, Hunter."

Now remember something important here.  The record of that phone call that the President keeps referring to as the perfect call, the record we all got to see, that one on the screen was not a transcript, it was a summary.  In some of the places where we see an ellipsis, three dots in the text, the lieutenant colonel says there, that`s where the President was saying things that the lieutenant colonel tried later to put back into the record but was rebuffed according to his apparent testimony today.

This lieutenant colonel is the first impeachment witness who actually that listened to that July 25 phone call between Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart that is at the center of this impeachment inquiry.

NBC News has also confirmed the "Times" reporting tonight.

Vindman happens to be an Iraq war veteran who was wounded in an IED road side bomb explosion, received the Purple Heart as a result.  He immigrated from Ukraine to the U.S. along with his twin brother when he was 3, back when Ukraine was still part of the former Soviet Union.

This morning, this decorated war veteran came under attack from President Trump, "How many more never-Trumpers will be allowed to testify about a perfectly appropriate phone call when all anyone has to do is read the transcript?"  Again, we never got a transcript.  "According to the corrupt media, the Ukraine call concerned today`s never-Trumper witness.  Was he on the same call that I was?  Can`t be possible."

And as we first reported here last night, Lieutenant Colonel Vindman`s motives were also questioned by commentators and media on the right known to support the President.  And beginning on cable news last night, they employed on old trope, one that has been used against Japanese-Americans, against Jews, against Italian-Americans and others, that is the whiff of divided loyalties.


BRIAN KILMEADE, FOX AND FRIENDS HOST:  So if you look at this lieutenant colonel`s background, he`s got a Purple Heart, he got hit by an IED in Iraq.  We also know he was born in the Soviet Union, immigrated with his family, young.  He tends to feel simpatico with the Ukraine."

SEAN DUFFY, FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE:  It seems very clear that he is incredibly concerned about Ukrainian defense.  I don`t know if he`s concerned about American policy, but his main mission was to make sure that the Ukraine got those weapons.  I understand that.  We all have an affinity to our homeland where we came from.  Like me, I`m sure that Vindman has the same affinity.

LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST:  Here we have a U.S. national security official who is advising Ukraine while working inside the White House apparently against the President`s interests, and usually they spoke in English.  Isn`t that kind of an interesting angle on this story?

JOHN YOO, FORMER DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL:  I find that astounding, and, you know, some people might call that espionage.


WILLIAMS:  The trope of divided loyalties.

Today one member of the House Republican leadership who happens to also be the daughter of a former United States vice president spoke out against such comments.


REP. LIZ CHENEY, (R) WYOMING:  I also want to say a word about something else that`s been going on over the course of the last several hours and last night, which I think is also shameful, and that is questioning the patriotism, questioning the dedication to country of people like Mr. Vindman, Lieutenant Colonel Vindman.  It is shameful to question their patriotism, their love of this nation and we should not be involved in that process.


WILLIAMS:  House Democrats meantime have rolled out their official road map for this next phase of the impeachment inquiry, including how they plan to go public with their findings.  Lawmakers will vote Thursday on this eight- page resolution that keeps House intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff front and center in these proceedings for now.  The Intelligence and Judiciary committees will be able to hold open hearings.

Transcripts from all these depositions we`ve seen in that basement room in the Capitol can and will be released to the public.  And Republicans can subpoena witnesses and documents subject to the Democrats` approval.  Any articles of impeachment would come from the Judiciary Committee then sent to the full House.

The resolution also lays out due process rights for Mr. Trump and his lawyers once proceedings move to the Judiciary Committee.  Today Trump`s Republican allies in the House argued the resolution and a subsequent vote still do not address their concerns about the process.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY, (R) CALIFORNIA MINORITY LEADER:  You can`t put the genie back in the bottle.  A due process starts at the beginning.  It doesn`t affirm a miss sham investigation all the way through.

REP. STEVE SCALISE, (R) LOUISIANA:  It`s clear Pelosi needs to declare a mistrial.  This has been a tainted process from the start.

REP. LEE ZELDIN, (R) NEW YORK:  This resolution should go down in flames.  This process has been illegitimate, it`s been without credibility.


WILLIAMS:  Tomorrow afternoon the House Rules Committee will begin reviewing the draft impeachment resolution as it moves forward.  The top Democrat in the Senate says he`s concerned about the impeachment time line and the President`s tendency to try to distract.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D) NEW YORK MINORITY LEADER:  I`m increasingly worried that President Trump may want to shut down the government again because of impeachment, an impeachment inquiry.  He always likes to create diversions.  I hope and pray he won`t want to cause another government shutdown because it might be a diversion away from impeachment.


WILLIAMS:  Here for our lead-off discussion on a Tuesday night, Phil Rucker, Pulitzer Prize-winning Bureau Chief for "The Washington Post," Ashley Parker, Pulitzer Prize-winning White House Reporter for "The Washington Post," and to keep things fair, Elisabeth Bumiller, the Washington Bureau Chief for "The New York Times."  In short, three of the finest print journalists working in Washington today.  Welcome to you all.

Elisabeth, I`d like to begin with you.  Have we invented a new category of the incremental game changer?  And like Taylor before him, was today`s witness indeed, an incremental game changer?

ELISABETH BUMILLER, THE NEW YORK TIMES WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF:  Absolutely. It doesn`t change the nature of the call, of the transcript that the White House put out, but it certainly provides key details.  It increases the suspicion of what the White House is doing or not doing.

We were very curious about those ellipses in the transcript of the call, which is, as you said before, is a rough transcript.  It`s based on voice recognition software that Colonel Vindman and among others then looked over.  He took notes on the call.  He looked over and made corrections.  And for whatever reason, those corrections were not included in the final document that was put in that vault.  So it does raise questions about what happened at the White House after those corrections were made, and why were key phrases and words not included.

WILLIAMS:  Phil Rucker, I want to play for you now a portion of President Trump`s comments.  This was October 2nd.  We`ll discuss it on the other side.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  They had a transcript done by very, very talented people, word for word, comma for comma, done by people that do it for a living.  And we had an exact transcript.


WILLIAMS:  That right there, an exact transcript, as you know better than most, Phil, is not what we have seen.  We saw a summary with the already- mentioned ellipses in there.  Where today`s witness apparently says in part, the President spoke to fill that space.

We also, however, have reporting tonight front your colleague, Greg Miller, who says this, "Officials describe the discrepancies cited by Vindman as minimal and of limited significance to investigators, even Vindman didn`t ascribe any sinister motive to the changes he sought that were not incorporated into the document."

So, Phil, do we have two things that are true?  A document that is a summary not a transcript with discrepancies that may not be earth- shattering in their nature in what was left out?

PHILIP RUCKER, WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF:  That`s right, Brian.  And while the discrepancies may not be earth-shattering, they are notable.  And the ellipses that were left in the summary, the rough transcript, were very notable.  They raised suspicions back when the White House released that document several weeks ago, and that will continue now because while Vindman filled in some of those gaps before Congress today talking about the mention of Burisma by the Ukrainian President as well as Trump`s mention of Biden being on tape, what we don`t understand yet is why that was omitted from the final transcript, why was that not added to the document that was then preserved in the White House?

We also don`t have answers still as to why this document was kept so secret inside of the government.  It was put into what Elisabeth just referred to as the vault, which is this very secure way to hold on to classified, sensitive material, not necessarily a standard foreign leader call like this.  And that raised a ton of suspicion in the administration and we don`t have any answers yet as to why officials in the White House were motivated to store the document there and keep it away from prying eyes.

WILLIAMS:  Ashley, I know you don`t speak for them, but you sure do report on them.  How harrowing must this be inside the West Wing because the nature this has now taken on?  Insiders in so many cases, life-long public servants choosing to step forward and thus far all telling different parts of all the same narrative.

ASHLEY PARKER, THE WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE REPORTER:  Well, on the one hand, it`s worth noting this is a White House that has long operated not just in chaos, but under a number of inquiries.  So there are some people who are perhaps not as alarmed as you or I might expect because they can point to, for instance, the Mueller investigation.  That said, there is a real understanding inside and outside the White House among allies, among Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill that this is not good, that this is gaining momentum and traction in a way that the Mueller investigation never really did.  And that each one of these witnesses who are going up with their name behind closed doors, but testimony is leaking out and emerging are all sort of marching in lock step and painting a very clear picture, each one complementing the next that is very damaging for this President and very damaging for this White House.  And that even his allies generally feel unfortunately trying to publicly defend.

WILLIAMS:  Elisabeth, let`s talk about Speaker Pelosi.  In the NFL, your binder is the playbook.  And on top of that you are able to call audibles when circumstances call for them.  She has done both.  This is her playbook.  There is every indication that this road map they announced today is all in keeping with her playbook.  Is it another way of saying she has right now unrivaled control over her caucus?

BUMILLER:  I would agree with that.  Don`t forget it wasn`t that long ago that people were questioning whether she should be speaker.  She was too old, she was -- had been around -- she`d been there before.  She wasn`t going to be able to control her caucus, she was too centrist.  She had a left flank that was creating problems.

And I would say right now she is, as you say, completely in control.  And what she`s done very carefully is keep her actions parallel with what we see in the opinion polls, is which is now that a majority of Americans, according to many polls, want to see impeachment and some of them want -- and many of them want to see Trump removed from office by the Senate, which is unlikely to happen certainly at this point.  But she`s been careful to stay in tune with the majority of Americans and certainly with the vast majority of Democrats.

WILLIAMS:  Phil Rucker, let`s talk about the increasing discomfort for Republicans.  Again, a lot of them are aware that this witness today was different, active duty, U.S. Army officer.  That means he is held to a code that makes it mandatory for him to bump up his findings up the chain of command, which he did.  They know that.  That makes him more credible than most.

RUCKER:  That`s right, Brian.  And there`s another thing that makes him more credible.  He`s the first witness in this impeachment proceeding who actually listened to that call between Trump and Zelensky.  He`s the first who served in the White House on the National Security Council to come testify before Congress.  Therefore, he`s not passing along what the Republicans have derided as hearsay, but rather, he`s sharing his first- hand accounts of what has transpired in the White House.

And some Democratic lawmakers are talking now about possibly bringing him back for the public phase of this.  The next round of hearings are going to be public in the Intelligence Committee led by Chairman Schiff.  And there`s talk that the lieutenant colonel would be a very compelling and credible witness to be on television, to be, you know, basically addressing the American people.

WILLIAMS:  And Ashley, right there, to Phil`s last point, aren`t the Republicans days away from losing their big argument that this is secretive, this has somehow been carried out unlike other similar actions in the House?  It doesn`t resemble a grand jury.  It`s being done in the basement.  It`s all going to switch to the upper floors very shortly.

PARKER:  They sure are in danger of losing that argument, but it`s not going to prevent them from making a different one.  A democratic lawmaker said today basically to the Republicans, you asked for this, you got it.  And already we`re seeing the Republicans shift their complaints from, now that leader Pelosi is offering this vote, they`re sort of saying, well, the process was tarnished, in a sham from the beginning.  So, they`re sort of going to change their argument, they`re going to make a lot more of the witch hunt that we`ve heard from the President, you know, a scam.  But they are certainly not satisfied that Democrats by enlarge have now given them what they have been clambering for for the past few weeks.

WILLIAMS:  Again, to our audience, our debt of thanks tonight to three of the very best in our business, Philip Rucker, Ashley Parker, Elisabeth Bumiller, thank you so much for starting off our conversation tonight.

Coming up for us, breaking down the specifics of this House resolution on the impeachment of Donald John Trump, it`s intended as a road map for where this goes next.

And later, there`s now nothing to compare it to.  As California forecasters have issued a first of its kind warning about what`s about to happen tonight.  THE 11TH HOUR is just getting started on this Tuesday evening.


WILLIAMS:  Today the Democratic chairs of the four House committees involved in the impeachment inquiry gave us a preview of what we might expect in open hearings following Thursday`s vote. They released a statement that read in part, and we quote, "The House impeachment inquiry has collected extensive evidence and testimony, and soon the American people will hear from witnesses in an open setting.  The resolution provides rules for the format of open hearings in the House Intelligence Committee, including staff-led questioning," that`s important, "of witnesses, and it authorizes the public release of deposition transcripts."

Over in the Senate, here`s what Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said today about the Democrats` impeachment resolution.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) KENTUCKEY MAJORITY LEADER:  The action is in the House now.  We`ll see whether they can, a, meet due process standards, fundamental due process standards, and then see what they do.  I think the vote that they`re now going to have to open the impeachment inquiry will be very interesting.  Will all the Democrats vote for it?


WILLIAMS:  We have a experienced guy we`re looking forward to talking to for all of this.  Ron Klain, among his many titles, former chief counsel of Senate Judiciary, former chief of staff to Al Gore during the Clinton impeachment, and former chief of staff to Joe Biden, who he is advising in an informal basis these days.

Hey, Ron, thank you for coming on.  First of all, is this a tricky vote?  Is there any risk involved?

RON KLAIN, FMR. CHIEF COUNSEL SENATE JUDICIARY CMTE.:  Well I think it is not a tricky vote, but it`s going to be a highly consequential vote.  And not just for the Democrats, Senator McConnell said I want to see if all the Democrats vote for it.  The question is, will all the House Republicans vote against it.

Many of these Republicans are in districts where a lot of their constituents, even if they aren`t yet convinced Trump should be removed, things that should be in inquiry, are they all going to march down there and they`ll vote to not have an inquiry?  I think it will be an interesting vote, but I`m very confident that the Democrats will ultimately prevail on that vote on Thursday.

WILLIAMS:  Republicans every day have called this a secret process.  They`ve called this a "kangaroo court."  They had the flash mob in the basement room.  Based on your experience, have the Democrats done anything procedurally different up till now from the Clinton experience, which is the last we have to compare this to.  And does this road map, this document, this bill you`ve seen, this resolution, call for anything different than the procedure followed during the Clinton impeachment?

KLAIN:  Well, to the extent that it`s different, it actually creates a much more extensive process for the President to tell his side of the story.

Remember with the Clinton impeachment basically everything happened in private.  Ken Starr then coughed up this huge report in October.  There were no hearings on the charges that Starr made.  The House Judiciary Committee began immediately to work on articles of impeachment.  They had just one day of evidence from the independent counsel.  Two days for the White House lawyers to present, and then they drafted and voted on those articles.

Here, you`ve got a whole process before that, which is a set of public hearings in the House Intelligence Committee that presumably will bring forward some of the witnesses that have been deposed already, perhaps other witnesses, and have a chance to have this story litigated out in public before even the Judiciary Committee begins to do its work.  So, if anything, I think it`s a more extensive process and I think the complaints about the process are going to start to evaporate very quickly when we start to actually hear from these witnesses in public soon.

WILLIAMS:  Ron, I think it can be said that we`ve watched the Judiciary Committee have some public stumbles.  I think it can further be said that you live in a town obsessed with politics and personalities and who`s up, and who`s down, and winners and losers.  I think we can safely say that Schiff is a huge winner in this process, and that Nadler will get the case when it`s time for Nadler to get the case.  Do you concur?

KLAIN:  I do.  Also by the way, it is the town obsessed with baseball right now.  But --

WILLIAMS:  I know.

KLAIN:  Yes, yes.  But look, I think that`s exactly right, Brian.  And I think that this is a decision to largely put the building of the case in Adam Schiff`s committee and let the case play out there, and then to give the House Judiciary Committee a more constrained role.

And so, you know, I think it is a nod to Schiff, it is a nod to his leadership.  It is a nod to the work that he`s done already to break this thing open, to bring forward the evidence that he has.  And it will be the centerpiece of the development of the case against Donald Trump.

But I also think it`s important to know that the House Judiciary Committee will still play critical role in drafting those articles and in probably being the place where the President`s lawyers get the first chance to make that case directly before Congress.

WILLIAMS:  I think that`s fair to say.  And would you also, if you were advising this process, would you recommend the further use of outside counsel, something that was actually briefly successful for that committee.

KLAIN:  Yes, I think both committees.  I think both Intelligence Committee and the Judiciary Committee should make extensive use of outside counsel.  And of course, that`s built into this resolution with a big change.  The hearing with Corey Lewandowski that kind of went off the rails and came back on the rails when Barry Berke, a skilled lawyer, questioned Lewandowski that part came at the end of the hearing, Brian.  And the hardcore people were still watching.

What this resolution says today is that the expert question will come at the beginning of the hearing, in the first 90 minutes of those hearings, 45 for the Democrats, 45 for the Republicans.  I think that`s going to put this expert question front and center of these hearings and make them more effective and more on point.

WILLIAMS:  Yes.  As you point out, Lewandowski had already river danced up and down the table before the professional lawyer arrived.

Last question.  How long do you think this process will take?

KLAIN:  Well, this is going to be very quick by congressional standards, maybe not like pizza delivery standards, but by congressional standards.  If you think about 1998 Starr delivered his report to the Congress, the first week in October.  And they finished December the 19th.  The goal here is to still finish before Christmas, if not sooner, and they really aren`t going to get started with the public part of this process until November.

So I think they are going to be chock-full of action in November and December and really scrambling to get to the House floor and get to a vote to articles of impeachment before Christmas Eve.

WILLIAMS:  As we always like to say around here, what could go wrong?  Ron Klain, it`s always a pleasure having a guy of your experience on.  Thank you very much.

KLAIN:  Thank you, Brian.

WILLIAMS:  Coming up here for us tonight, why our next guest thinks Vladimir Putin is set to gain the most from what we`re watching right now.


WILLIAMS:  A lot of folks are jumping into defend Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman after some on cable news used an old trope to question his loyalty to our country.  Former U.S. Ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, a frequent guest on this broadcast, served with Vindman in Moscow when he was a military attache at our U.S. embassy.  And earlier tonight, Ambassador McFaul wasted no time defending his former colleague.


AMB. MICHAEL MCFAUL, FMR. U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA:  I know Colonel Vindman.  He is a first-rate military officer.  He was an outstanding official at our embassy.  He was appointed at the National Security Council because he is one of the best and the brightest.  And the idea that somebody with his resume would not serve the United States of America is just disgusting, it`s outrageous.  And I want those people to apologize and to remember what they`re doing when they take cheap shots at people like Colonel Vindman when they don`t know his background and they don`t know his history.


WILLIAMS:  With us tonight to talk about it, Clint Watts, former FBI Special Agent, a distinguished research fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute and author of "Messing With The Enemy: Surviving In A Social Media World of Hackers, Terrorists, Russians, and Fake News."  Clint, we talked about having you on under the headline of what must Vladimir Putin be making of what he sees.  So let`s start there.  What does Putin make of all of this?

CLINT WATTS, FMR. FBI SPECIAL AGENT:  If you look at how the U.S. opposes aggression from a foreign state like Russia, every element of the government has been attacked, but not by Russia, but by people in the White House, people in Congress, people in the public.  Think about it.  FBI agents and the counterintelligence division that have investigated and done their duties to counter Russia have been tarnished out in the public, pushed down, you know, degraded on Twitter.

Now you have this Lieutenant Colonel.  He is one of our experts on Russia and Ukraine.  Do you think he will ever be able to effectively do his job probably again?  He is somebody with designing strategies, served in Moscow and Kiev.  Shifted to the State Department.  Bill Taylor, our best ambassador probably that we`ve had that`s out there has now been tarnished and called a never-Trump.  Or turn to the intel committee, we have a search for a whistle-blower by our elected officials trying to out that person who is clearly someone that knows the Russia threat.

If you look across the government in all these elements of U.S. government right now, they have all been degraded, tied up with investigations, beaten down by the President of the United States or other Congressmen.  So how would we even counter Putin at this point.  If you were looking at it from afar, Russia just cannot believe everything that`s been given to.  And if you look around the world, we`re seeing them in Africa again, after two decades of really being absence there, they`re pushing aggressively.  We`re seeing them in the Balkans, throughout all the former Soviet states, Eastern Europe.  In Scandinavia we`re seeing them moved very aggressively, and they`re starting to really mess around in the Middle East.

So from a world standpoint, we are retreating from the world, and our top defenders across all of the United States government are back on their heels due to infighting in our own country.  Vladimir Putin hasn`t done any of it.  We`re doing it to ourselves.

WILLIAMS:  There`s been a lot of talk about this Lieutenant Colonel being the recipient, and for good reason, of the Purple Heart.  He was in an IED blast.  His vehicle got blown up, he received combat wounds report out today.  He`s still walking around with shrapnel as a result.

But as I look at him, and I happen to know a lot of folks in the service, when they glance at this picture of him, there`s something that stands out.  There`s a reason it`s above his rack of decorations, the powder blue rectangle with two laurels and a rifle through the center.  As a west point grad yourself and an army veteran yourself, tell our audience what that decoration is, and what it means to his fellow veterans and service members.

WATTS:  That`s the Combat Infantryman Badge.  It is an esteemed award that`s given to those that actually fight as infantry men or special forces, colonel and below in actual combat action or --

WILLIAMS:  For sustained days at a time.

WATTS:  That`s exactly right.  And it was actually developed during WORLD WAR II to be given to infantry men to sort of give them some sort of status or incentivize them, make them feel like they`ve had a great achievement for getting out to the front lines.  And so when you see that, that is a coveted award to earn.  People kind of strive for that once they deploy.  You know, they want to be part of the fight.

And so when you see that on an officer like we saw today, somebody walking into the Senate and then being disparaged out in the public space by elected officials, questions about his allegiance to the United States after he served his country so dutifully and in combat, and he wears that badge, it`s quite a sad moment in our modern history amongst many sad moments in recent days.

WILLIAMS:  And yet I have to also -- I`m duty bound to ask you about the good news that we received this weekend that Baghdadi is gone.

WATTS:  That`s right.  So, you know, of all terrorist leaders, he is as terrible as it gets.  You know, just a murderer, someone who committed atrocities, and really inspired a terrorist organization that did many things that al-Qaeda could not do.  Their terror campaign through Europe, their worldwide terror attacks, their inspirations, they actually set up an Islamic state, and he appointed himself the caliph which is a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad.

And so we actually did something that al-Qaeda was talked about doing but actually didn`t push to.  Is this the same blow as it would have been two years ago?  Not quite because the Islamic state is been on the retreat.  But we do need to look at it as it`s a symbolic victory and it is one that sends a message of the Islamic state is unlikely to come back in the way it is.

We should always remember as well though that they trained, recruited, and dispatched foreign fighters from dozens of countries around the world that will ultimately the next wave of Jihadist violence probably around the world.  So we still have a lot of work to do, but a great success for the United States and for our coalition partners as well.  And particularly, the Syrian Kurds and the Iraqis who provided us so much intelligence, so much support on this at a time when maybe we are not providing them the best structure to support us.

WILLIAMS:  Thank you, as always.

WATTS:  Thank you.

WILLIAMS:  Greatly appreciate you coming by.  Our guest Clint Watts.

Coming up, what Congressman Schiff says his committee will not put up with from this President.  We`ll have that after this.



REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), HOUSE INTEL COMMITTEE CHAIR, CALIFORNIA:  The President would love to punish the whistleblower.  The President`s comments and actions have jeopardized the whistleblower`s safety.  The President`s allies would like nothing better than to help the President out this whistleblower.  Our committee will not be a part of that.  We will not stand for that.


WILLIAMS:  Democrats today accusing the GOP of using Lieutenant Colonel Vindman`s deposition as a ruse to try, as you heard, to out the intelligence officer who blew the whistle and helped trigger the impeachment inquiry.  Wall Street Journal puts it this way, "Testimony of a White House national security official turned combative Tuesday as Democrats accused Republicans of trying to unmask the whistleblower.  Democrats called the GOP attempt to ferret out details on the whistleblower potentially dangerous".

Indeed, with us for more tonight, Maya Wiley, former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, now with the new school here in New York, and Bill Kristol, Editor-at-Large of The Bulwark, also a veteran of the Reagan and Bush administrations.  Two old friends, good evening to you both.  And Counselor, I`d like to begin with you.  What of the effort to unmask the whistleblower?  Is it just for distraction purposes?  And in your eyes, was this a good fact witness today to have?

MAYA WILEY, FMR. U.S. ASSISTANT ATTY., SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK:  Two great questions, Brian.  First, if you don`t have a defense, you become defensive.  And that`s really what I think we`re seeing around constant deflection from testimony, from witness who were in key rooms when key conversations were happening, undermining the Republicans` argument that there`s no evidence of a quid pro quo.  That`s what we heard from Lieutenant Colonel Vindman`s opening statement that we all were able to read.

So, what we constantly see is a return to, but who`s the whistleblower?  The whistleblower is irrelevant, and the reason the whistleblower is irrelevant is the whistleblower is a person who says I spoke to these people who had facts and knowledge.  What Congress has received is testimony from the actual people --


WILEY:  -- with those facts and knowledge.

WILLIAMS:  Superseding the original --

WILEY:  Superseding the whistleblower.  So to keep pulling it back to the whistleblower is, I would say, certainly detraction because they can`t focus on facts that challenge the ultimate premise of the potential impeachment, which is whether or not Donald Trump sought dirt on a political opponent from a foreign government.  And what we heard from Lieutenant Colonel Vindman today was nothing short, just from the opening statement, was nothing short of astounding.

WILLIAMS:  Bill, as a member of what I like to call Republican classic, I have a tweet that I noted today that I want to put on the screen and read for you.  A point I was trying inelegantly to make last night.  A short while ago, men such as Robert Mueller, William Taylor and Alexander Vindman would have been pinups for us American conservatives, decorated combat veterans, patriots, straight arrows, the urge to prop up Trump changed all of these.  A heartbreaking and infuriating era.

Knowing you as I do, I think that probably speaks for your particular ethos.  Can you believe we`re in this period?  Can you believe we`re back to divided loyalty tropes, the same that were used against Japanese- Americans, Jewish-Americans, Italian-Americans?  And can you believe it took a former Vice President`s daughter in Congress to stand up one voice and say let`s stop this?

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, THE BULWARK:  I`m glad Liz Cheney did.  It was my friend Jay Nordlinger wrote the eloquent lament.  He (INAUDIBLE) this data in a national view and there`s been a regular public and all of these a double life (ph) since he were told against the campus culture at the University of Michigan when he`s 20s.  And he`s just appalled and can`t believe it.  But I do think, we`ll have public hearings probably beginning pretty soon I would think and maybe within a week or maybe a week and a half.  And we will see Bill Taylor, I would imagine, testify.  We will see Colonel Vindman I would think testify.

And I`m, you know, leaving aside the details, though, I think with zero chance that those people are not telling the truth.  They are honorable people and they`re telling the truth as they recollected and they have good recollection and close experience.  I`m, you know, happy to be on their side, if I could put it that way.  I mean, I would (INAUDIBLE) to hear that they`re telling the truth.  They didn`t volunteer for this is a political effort, there is a broader effort about what you think of Donald Trump or something, but -- and the hacks attacking them, hack is maybe too kind of a word, that was.  I wouldn`t want to be on their side.

The Republicans keep complaining on this process saying, you know, we want to call witnesses.  Who are they going to call?  And I say that honestly.  Well, there would be people who presumably Mick Mulvaney, the Chief of Staff who was involved in the middle of this, Rudy Giuliani.  I mean, let`s see if they have the nerve to call those witnesses.  Let them testify, because they`re the ones who say the President didn`t do anything wrong, right?  Otherwise, who they`re going to call.  They really have no one, I don`t think, who respectable.  And they`re against Bolton, Mulvaney and Giuliani testifying.  If they have nothing to hide, why don`t those people testify?

WILLIAMS:  We detect a shift in the winds.  Both of our guests have agreed to stay with us over this break.

And coming up, the one name you might have heard just there that may sit atop the witness and wish list, here he is, as Congress continues to gather testimony toward potential articles of impeachment.



AMB. NICHOLAS BURNS, FMR. U.S. AMBASSADOR TO NATO:  You and I both work with Ambassador Bolton, and I hope he testifies because he would have perfect knowledge of what the President`s mind was, what the President was trying to do.  He obviously saw the power play by Rudy Giuliani.  It`s very significant now.  John Bolton should testify.  I think he owes it to the country to testify.


WILLIAMS:  Former National Security Adviser has yet to make an appearance on Capitol Hill, but Bolton`s name sure has been kicked around and evoked in connection to this impeachment inquiry, and not in a way likely to be helpful to the President, his former boss.  A reminder that Trump`s former top aide in Ukraine has testified it was Bolton who objected to the pressure campaign and to the notion of withholding military funding approved by Congress.

Fiona Hill relayed that Bolton told her, "I am not part of whatever drug deal Ambassador Sondland and Mick Mulvaney are cooking up."  Adding "Rudy Giuliani`s a hand grenade who`s going to blow everybody up."

Still with us here tonight, Maya Wiley and Bill Kristol.  Maya, what does Bolton get you if he goes all the way and is Sondland in a heap of trouble anyway?

WILEY:  So let`s start with Sondland because that`s easy.  Sondland`s in a heap of trouble because if -- I mean, we don`t know his literal testimony.


WILEY:  But it appears that he made statements under oath that we have heard from Lieutenant Colonel Vindman are not consistent with what happened, right?  So that raises a question of perjury.  Again, I agree, Lieutenant Colonel Vindman had no reason to lie, seems to have been very forthcoming.  So that`s one question.  And it is Bolton who has the ability to say who`s telling the truth.  Because Lieutenant Colonel Vindman is the person who says I was in the room with Ukrainians two weeks before the call that Donald Trump has with President Zelensky and in that meeting it was Sondland, and Rick Perry was in it too, but it was Sondland who said you want that meeting with Trump, you`ve got to open these investigations.

And that it was John Bolton according to the Lieutenant Colonel who says we`re stopping this right now.  Fiona Hill wasn`t in the room yet.  So it really is Bolton who can say who`s telling the truth here.

And secondly, you know, we don`t know, was -- Bolton says he left.  Donald Trump said --


WILEY:  -- he was pushed out.  He can speak to that.  But there is a big difference.  Because if he left or even if Trump pushed him out, why?  What were they disagreeing about?  Could it have been this?

KRISTOL:  There was also the Taliban invitation.

WILEY:  Well, there`s a long list.  Venezuela.  There was a Venezuela --

WILLIAMS:  Now you`re on --

WILEY:  But I think the point is --

WILLIAMS:  -- technicalities.

WILEY:  -- the -- it`s not so much that we have something new to learn in terms of the allegations as much as if Bolton testifies will he corroborate some key witnesses because they put Bolton in the room.

WILLIAMS:  Bill Kristol, Nicolle Wallace`s show briefly today was the hottest club in New York because, a, Nicolle spoke her mind today, b, Donny Deutsch floated out the GOP ticket of Romney and former -- Nikki Haley --

KRISTOL:  Nikki Haley.

WILLIAMS:  -- which he said the Democrats could not match.  And then this happened.  This is former member of Congress David Jolly, talking about the potential jeopardy being faced by Mike Pence.


FMR. REP. DAVID JOLLY (R), FLORIDA:  Mike Pence is guilty, without question.  Mike Pence was told by Trump to skip Zelensky`s inauguration in May.  Certainly he would have been told why.  The phone call happened on July 25th, the text messages occurred throughout August.  And on September 1, Donald Trump sends Mike Pence to meet with Ukraine President Zelensky in Warsaw, Poland for Pence to deliver the message that Mr. President, you are not receiving your aid.  There is no way the Vice President Mike Pence would have gone into that meeting without a full brief of the White House`s posture toward Ukraine.


WILLIAMS:  Your reaction.

KRISTOL:  I`m no defender of Mike Pence, but honestly, people can say whatever they want here on TV and analyze up and down.  They should stay focused on -- Donald Trump is the person who`s going to be I think likely impeached and then maybe convicted.  Republicans need to believe, and I think they will believe, that if Trump is removed from office, Mike Pence will succeed.

I mean, one of the big things is keeping Trump is half of the Republican primary electorate seems to thinks that if Trump is impeached, Nancy Pelosi becomes President or Hillary Clinton or something.  So I think with all due respect, whatever Pence should have known, could have known, may even have some taint.  We have a serious question about the President of the United States and it isn`t a time to follow too many other trails.  I`m sure there are many other things we would like to know about Rudy Giuliani knew, what Mike Pence knew, what Mick Mulvaney knew, but this isn`t the moment to sort of try to bring down, you know, every person in the administration I think.

WILLIAMS:  That`s fair.  Our thanks to two returning veterans, Maya Wiley, Bill Kristol.  Appreciate it.  Please come back.

Coming up, we shift our attention to the west and a crisis most people out east cannot fathom.



ERIC GARCETTI, LOS ANGELES MAYOR:  We have the most significant wind event in Los Angeles of the year.  It will be starting this evening.


WILLIAMS:  Last thing before we go tonight, that`s the Mayor of L.A.  And while it`s hard to predict fire conditions any worse than what we`ve seen in California this week, tonight will be the night.  The National Weather Service has never issued an extreme red flag warning before.  Such a thing had never been issued because it didn`t exist before today.

And here`s another quote.  "Conditions are as dangerous for fire growth and behavior as we have seen in recent memory."  Twenty million Californians are in danger.  The Santa Ana winds are going to blow up there around 11:00 local time tonight.  Gusts could hit 80 miles an hour.  For perspective, most humans cannot stand up unassisted in 80-mile-an-hour winds.  Imagine how far they can throw an ember, and how fast fire could run down a hillside.

Put another way, there`s no saving that hillside, there`s no saving your home in winds approaching that speed.  If anyone can, however, it`s the fire crews who are going to work right now, tonight.  This, by the way, is where they`re living.  Lap of luxury as usual.  And while most will tell you they`ll sleep when they`re dead, they`ve got to rest because like the fires they`re fighting, it takes nothing for an eight-hour shift to explode into 12 or 24.

And one more time because this is important, we have admitted the obvious here before.  There is geographic dysmorphia at work in the coverage of these fires.  Network news divisions are still headquartered out here in the east.  To be more exact, we are all just blocks away from each other.

And make no mistake, if we could smell this smoke in midtown Manhattan, if these were our homes in danger, our families being evacuated, live coverage would air perhaps at times in a split screen alongside impeachment coverage all day and all night.  So absent that, please allow us to say to our brothers and sisters in California, citizens, and first responders both, we are thinking of you tonight.

That is our broadcast for this evening.  We thank you for being here with us.  Good night from our NBC News headquarters here in New York.

  THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.                                                                                                     END